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My Secret Life: Geoff Dyer, writer, 52

My parents are... Jack, a sheet-metal worker and Mary, a dinner lady, then a cleaner. He's 91 and she's 85. We Dyers are tenacious.

The house/flat I grew up in... was a terraced and then a semi-detached house, both in Cheltenham. No brothers, sisters or pets.

When I was a child I wanted to... scream with boredom.

If I could change one thing about myself... I'd like to be able to read German. Or, to put it another way, I wish I had the brain-power to learn German now. Also, if I had the money I think I could get seriously into cosmetic surgery.

You wouldn't know it but I am very good at... ping-pong. But then everyone thinks they're good at ping-pong.

You may not know it but I'm no good at... recognising people, especially in stress situations where I am worried about accidentally snubbing someone.

At night I dream of... There are a few recurring ones that I remember. Maybe twice a year I dream I find money on the street. I particularly enjoy that one.

What I see when I look in the mirror... Ageing, increasing ugliness, and continuing scrawniness.

My favourite item of clothing... My new tweed jacket from Hackett (though no doubt in a few years I'll wonder how I could ever have owned such an absurd garment). More generally, I love all my pairs of suede shoes. I would never wear any shoes that were not suede.

It's not fashionable but I like... I want to emphasise that the above jacket is fashionable.

I drive... a UniTrek bicycle. It and I are one. I'm proud to be a non-car owner.

My home is... I get better value from my flat than almost anyone else I know. I'm in it for an average of about 20 hours a day and leave it with increasing reluctance.

My favourite work of art... Right now: The Clock by Christian Marclay or James Turrell's Bindu Shards; going further back, Matrix XII by Erwin Redl.

My favourite building... Uchronia, aka The Waffle House, Black Rock City, Nevada (it's no longer in existence).

Movie heaven... Tarkovsky's Stalker. I have just finished writing a whole book, summarising it in mind-numbing detail.

A book that changed me... Culture and Society by Raymond Williams. More exactly, it re-rooted me.

The last album I bought/downloaded... Stars of the Lid: And Their Refinement of the Decline. Middle-age: the ambient years!

My secret crush is... a barista who used to work at the local coffee shop.

My greatest regret... is that I still live in England, not California. But there are lots of others. I exist in a vast and turbulent ocean of regret.

My real-life villains... The Royal Family – spongers! – and the Pope.

The person who really makes me laugh... I have lots of very funny friends. Basically, that's all I want from them: to make me laugh; in all other respects they're frankly a nuisance.

The last time I cried... When hearing about how passengers helped each other during the 7/7 bombings amid the manifold failings of the State.

What's the point? There is none. That, precisely, is the point.

My life in six words... Five-decade struggle to gain weight.

A life in brief

Geoff Dyer was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, in 1958. After studying at Oxford, he moved to London and began writing journalism and fiction. His novels include Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do It and Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, and one of his non-fiction books, But Beautiful, won the Somerset Maugham Award. His latest essay collection, Working the Room, is published by Canongate. He lives in west London with his wife, Rebecca